What's Cooking? Make - Ahead Bread Mixes
Gourmet bread prices getting you down? Salivating for a nice hot loaf with dinner tonight? At the suggestion of a fellow Wise Bread blogger, today’s post provides sample bread machine mix recipes and suggestions for incorporating these pre-made mixes into your meal and party menus.
In addition to the ingredients, you’ll need a bread machine, gallon sized freezer bags, a small to medium point permanent marker, and some cupboard space to store the pre-made mixes. I’ve spent some time reviewing a fairly large selection of recipe ideas, and narrowed it down to a few that I think appeal to a broad range of people, and use ingredients that are relatively easy to come by. All recipes listed in this post are for a 2 pound loaf. Separate make-ahead instructions are provided further below.
- Whole Wheat Bread: 1 2/3 cups water, 4 ¼ cups whole wheat flour, 2 tsp salt, 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar, 2 tbsp shortening, 3 tbsp dry milk powder, 2 tsp yeast. Use the setting recommended by your machine for a larger, slightly heavier loaf. I also add flax seeds and other types of seeds to this mix for variety.
- Pumpernickel Bread: 1 ½ cups water, 2 cups bread flour, 1 ½ cups rye flour, 1 ½ cups wheat flour, 2 tsp salt, ½ cup molasses, 2 tbsp salad oil, ¼ cup cocoa powder, 2 tbsp caraway seeds, 2 tsp instant coffee, 2 ¼ tsp yeast. The pumpernickel bread probably has the longest ingredient list out of all of the ones I selected for this article. However, the actual ingredients are not that exotic or hard to come by. Since this is a more expensive bread to buy, I still consider this recipe in the frugal category.
- Caraway Rye Bread: 1 ½ cups water, 2 cups bread flour, 1 cup rye flour, 1 cup wheat flour, 2 tsp salt, 3 tbsp dry milk powder, 2 tbsp shortening, 3 tbsp caraway seeds, ¼ cup molasses, 1 ¾ tsp yeast. Although I really love this bread, it has a somewhat stronger flavor, so I’d recommend pairing it with something where the flavors weren’t competing too much, like a cheddar and beer soup, perhaps.
- French Bread: 1 ¾ cups water, 4 1/3 cups bread flour, 2 tsp salt, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp shortening, 2 tsp yeast. This recipe is not exactly “whole grain”. However, it is quite tasty, palatable for most people, and extremely inexpensive. This one is great if you are really scraping pennies until pay day and need to manage a nice meal or dinner party on very little money. Just pair it with a pureed lentil, pumpkin or butternut squash soup and you’ve got dinner for at least four people at well under 50 cents a serving.
Make Ahead Assembly Instructions:
Most any bread machine manual will strongly recommend putting the ingredients into the machine in the order your recipe lists them. Over the years though, I’ve always been fine just making sure I separate dry ingredients from wet. If it’s a recipe with a long ingredient list and I’m feeling timid, I go the extra mile and separate the moist ingredients into two possible categories. The really wet ones that are listed first on the recipe list, and any moist sweeteners such as honey or molasses that are listed towards the end along with shortening or margarine. Since I always start my machine as soon as I put the ingredients together, I’ve never had an interaction problem. Hey, those people who make the store bought bread machine mixes get away with it, and you can too!
Once you’ve selected the bread mix recipe you want to make in bulk, get out your dry ingredients, measuring utensils, gallon freezer bags with write-on labels, and your permanent marker. As you get going, you’ll be sure to develop your own system. Since I like to do them assembly line style, I open up each bag one at a time and add the first dry ingredient on the list, which is usually a large enough amount of flour to stabilize the base of the bag and hold it open a bit. This makes it easier to go back through your line of bags and keep adding each ingredient assembly – fashion until you are done.
Then, seal each bag completely, taking care to squeeze out extra air. Label each bag with the date, type of bread, and size of the loaf. Try at least a couple of different kinds to give yourself some variety. If you don’t like the bags slip-sliding around in your cupboard and falling all over the place, try picking up a large, clear plastic bin with a snap on lid. Toss all the completed mixes inside for storage.
- I think it’s a good idea to have the original recipe on hand. If it’s already in your manual, good for you. If not, make sure you can grab it easily. This saves having to write out each time how much water, etc. Also, if a recipe calls for sugar, it’s already going to be in your bag of mix. If it calls for honey, you’ll need to add it to the machine separately and don’t want to forget an ingredient.
- Buy your yeast in bulk and store it in the fridge. You’ll need an air tight container after you open the vacuum sealed package. 2 ½ tsp of bulk powdered yeast equals 1 of those standard sized expensive little packages. This will reduce your per loaf cost dramatically. What I like about this particular bulk buying tip is that it’s one of those rare ones that can easily be implemented by those in small spaces with no giant freezers. Bulk powdered yeast is dirt cheap at warehouse stores, a large bulk package doesn’t take up much room at all even in a smaller fridge, and if kept in an air tight container it will keep for a very long time.
- Wanna go green? If you find you like making these well enough to make them part of a monthly make-ahead dry mix marathon, get some smaller air tight containers more suited to the size of an individual bread mix. Print the instructions and loaf information via your computer to tape on or stick on labels and attach to the containers. You can re-use these from month to month.
- Feeling a bit timid? Start with a cheap one (French bread) and try it by itself to see how it goes. When I was first starting out with these, I felt it was OK if I screwed this loaf up because it really doesn’t cost much to assemble. I played around with ingredient order, etc.
Menu and Party Ideas:
- Fondue Night! Either homemade or store bought cheese fondue will work. This is a great last minute after work party idea, or to use for a fun dinner. Small children like to dunk and feel very grown up when the dinner or snack menu includes fondue.
- Rip and Dunk: This is a fun rustic way to enjoy a fresh loaf hot out of the machine. Just let everyone rip off a hunk of bread and enjoy dunking it into whatever delightful concoction is simmering in your soup pot. Chili, beans, stew, whatever you like! Whenever pennies are tight, fresh bread and savory soup can make you feel rich.
- Deli Style Lunch Sandwiches: You can really brown bag it in style with homemade artisan style bread at your fingertips. I find it slices better for sandwiches after it sits overnight, but others might have a different method. Here's a list of superior sandwich ideas to get you started.
- Romantic Candle Light Bread Bowl Dinner: For this one, you need one of the machines that makes round loaves. Slice off the top of the round (not too much) and set aside. Carefully scoop out the center, leaving a little more than a ¼ inch on the inside all the way around. Put the emptied bread round in the center of a cookie sheet. Tear up the scooped out bread and top into chunks and spread around the hollow loaf on the cookie sheet. Toast in the oven for about 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees F. Take out of the oven and fill with clam chowder, broccoli cheese, or other favorite soup. Enjoy mugs of soup ladled from the bread bowl with fat free, oven - baked croutons on top. Or, make two smaller ones in advance if you have a hot date and serve with a nice wine and a crisp salad. You could also use the scooped out and torn bits for fondue on night number one, and do the bread bowl dinner menu the next night.
I was fortunate enough to have a virtually new bread machine with manual given to me. If setting aside funds for a new one is difficult for you, and your yard sale find came without an instruction manual and recipe book, check out the following resources:
- A link to a resource page with downloadable manuals from various manufacturers.
- Another link to a set of directions for figuring out your machine with no manual necessary. Pretty clever. I’ve used some things from this site before, and her advice usually pans out pretty accurately.
Additional Recipe Resources:
If you really get into this, and want some more ideas for different types of loaves, I found a couple of links you might be interested in.
- This one from Betty Crocker has a fairly decent selection. Betty doesn’t usually let us down, so I’m pretty comfortable recommending this link.
- For additional ones, check out this second link and let me know what you think. Some of the recipes looked pretty interesting.
I’m pretty sure I covered all subtopics in this article, but if you have additional questions, post away and I’ll do my best to research and track down the answers for you. As always, I’d love other resource suggestions. Once you get the hang of doing these, I think you’ll keep going with it. You’ve got to agree, making your own mixes provides you with the ultimate “Wise Bread”.